Teachers, frontline workers in Uganda being compelled to mandatory COVID-19 jabs

Teachers, frontline workers in Uganda being compelled to mandatory COVID-19 jabs
The COVID-19 vaccine in Uganda has been available in a phased manner from March 2021 starting with priority groups most at risk of COVID-19 infection. COURTESY PHOTO/MoH Uganda/2021

Kampala, Uganda | URN | Authorities in Health and Education ministries are seemingly in support of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination of teachers and other frontline workers.

While the Government of Uganda had initially said that COVID-19 vaccination is not compulsory and subject to consent since the vaccines are new and have never been used before, this sentiment seems to have changed following low uptake of the vaccines by targeted groups/frontline workers.

Now several schools, local government authorities and also some health facilities are making it a requirement for members of staff. Workers are being told they need to produce evidence of having been vaccinated.

The move started with the Uganda Cancer Institute tweeting that all staff will be required to get vaccinated. Then came Goeffrey Osborn Oceng, the Amuru Resident District Commissioner who doubles as the chairperson COVID-19 taskforce for the district, threatening prioritized groups of people including teachers, and health workers to go for the jabs or else their salaries will be withheld.

Similarly, several private schools mostly in Kampala and Wakiso have reportedly ordered their staff to either be vaccinated or quit their jobs.

When asked to comment on these actions, the Minister of Health Jane Ruth Aceng said that the move taken by the Amuru RDC is exemplary.

Ismail Mulindwa, the Ministry of Education Director of Basic Education and the ministry’s COVID-19 taskforce chairman also says they have been surprised to learn that teachers are adamantly refusing to go for their COVID-19 jabs.

To him, the action of delaying or complete refusal of being vaccinated increases the risk of teachers contracting the disease or even spreading it to the children in their classes.

He adds that the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the education sector and vaccinating teachers is seen as a critical step towards putting it back on track.

Mulindwa says although they are aware that vaccination is voluntary, the education ministry is considering consulting their health counterparts to ascertain whether there are possible means through which COVID-19 vaccination can be mandatory for teachers.

However, Filbert Baguma, the General Secretary Uganda National Teacher Union (UNATU), warns that compelling teachers and other workers to go for Covid-19 vaccination is illegal as it infringes on the rights of workers.